Heavy Rains, Cool Species Marked Fall Bird Banding

By March 12, 2014Education, Science

Spring is here, and you know what that means … spring migration and bird banding! We’re getting prepared and excited for the upcoming banding season. But before we get the mist nets out for another season, we wanted to share some birdy highlights from the fall (a little late, we know, but better late than never, right?).

Barr Lake State Park, Colorado – It was the 27th season of banding birds at Barr Lake northeast of Denver. Like many areas along the Front Range, last fall was a wet one at Barr Lake. Biologist Meredith McBurney said although the rain had little direct negative impact on the station itself, the heavy rains changed the landscape greatly north of Barr Lake and likely had a major impact on migration. A total of 1,031 individual birds of 52 species were banded in the fall, including the first-ever Ash-throated Flycatcher, Eurasian Collared-Dove and Great Crested Flycatcher, which was caught the day after the storms along with a rare Golden-winged Warbler. Meredith noted the pace of captures waned after the flooding, and the numbers of some typically late arrivals, such as Chipping Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos, were well below normal.


Volunteer Megan Miller dumps water off the canopy above the banding station at Barr Lake State Park about 20 minutes before it collapsed under the weight of the water. Photo by Meredith McBurney.

Net Lane

Because of the storms, Barr Lake began filling in early October. RMBO banders and volunteers spent the last week taking down nets as water crept toward the banding area. Photo by Joyce Commercon.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

This was the first-ever Ash-throated Flycatcher caught and banded at Barr Lake. Photo by Emily Snode.

Eurasian Collared-Dove

A sign of the times, the first Eurasian Collared-Dove was caught at Barr Lake. This invasive bird species is becoming more and more common along the Front Range. Photo by Kacie Miller.

Golden-winged Warbler

A rare Golden-winged Warbler was caught the day after the storms. Very cool! Photo by Barbara Van Horne.

Scientists in Action

The banding station at Barr Lake was broadcast to students across the U.S. as part of the Scientists in Action distance learning program, in partnership with the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

Chico Basin Ranch, Colorado – Biologist Nancy Gobris and volunteers caught and banded a record total of 1,696 individual birds at Chico Basin Ranch, located 35 miles southeast of Colorado Springs. They had eight days of 100+ individual birds … wow! Nancy said they caught birds of 57 different species, including the station’s first-ever Great Crested Flycatcher and 185 Brewer’s Sparrows. In 12 years of banding at Chico Basin Ranch, only 21 Brewer’s Sparrows had ever been banded there.

Great Crested Flycatcher

Volunteer Stacy Baker holds the first Great Crested Flycatcher ever banded at Chico Basin Ranch. Photo by Nancy Gobris.

Lee Martinez Park, Colorado – This was a new station for RMBO in 2013, located a grouse’s flight away from our office in Fort Collins. After piloting it in the spring for International Migratory Bird Day, we operated the station for three weeks in the fall despite a late start due to the Cache la Poudre River flooding the banding area. In that time, we captured and banded 63 individual birds of 14 different species, including a Wood Thrush, an uncommon visitor typically found out East.

Wood Thrush

Biologist Jeff Birek shows a Wood Thrush to visitors during a special public day at the banding station. Photo by Greg Levandoski.


Treloar Bower, of the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, releases a Wilson’s Warbler with help from bander Anna Harris. Photo by Greg Levandoski.

Ridgway State Park, Colorado – Located on the West Slope, this station was operated in partnership with the Black Canyon Audubon Society from Sept. 6-17. A total of 152 individual birds of 20 different species were banded there, including the station’s first-ever Nashville Warbler, 50 Wilson’s Warblers and 17 MacGillivray’s Warblers.

Ela Wildlife Sanctuary, Colorado – RMBO operated this station near Grand Junction in partnership with the Grand Valley Audubon Society from Sept. 20 to Oct. 18. A total of 177 individual birds of 22 different species were banded there, including the station’s first two Cassin’s Vireos.

Chadron State Park, Nebraska – It was a record season at our banding station at Chadron State Park, with 433 individual birds banded of 41 different species. This included eight species banded for the first time at the station: Belted Kingfisher, Blue Grosbeak, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Lazuli Bunting (three of them!), Veery, Western Tanager, Western Wood-Pewee and Dusky Flycatcher (the first of this species ever banded in Nebraska!).

Dusky Flycatcher

Bander Michael Novak holds the first-ever Dusky Flycatcher to be banded in Nebraska, caught last fall at RMBO’s station at Chadron State Park.


Educator Maggie Vinson helps young visitors release a bird at Chadron.

Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area, Nebraska – Not to be left out of the fun, our banding station at Wildcat Hills had its own first in the fall, a Baltimore Oriole. A total of 369 individual birds of 33 different species were banded there, including 151 Chipping Sparrows and 46 Red Crossbills.

Baltimore Oriole

Bander Melanie Mancuso holds the first Baltimore Oriole ever banded at the Wildcat Hills station.


Educator Maggie Vinson helps youngsters release a bird at Wildcat Hills.

We appreciate the many schools, families, community groups and others who visited our banding stations in the fall to learn about bird anatomy and migration. Thank you to the many partners and funders who helped us operate these stations. We couldn’t do it without you!

Did you know RMBO also operates owl banding stations? Read about owl banding in 2013. And don’t forget to visit our banding stations this spring. See you out there!